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Balancing The Pros and Cons Of Cloud-Based DAM

by Ralph Windsor on December 11, 2015

Jon Hornstein, from DAM reseller, Modula4 has recently posted an article: Should Your DAM be in the Cloud? 3 Reasons Why It Should, 3 Reasons Why It Shouldn’t.  In the piece, Jon gives a balanced view of the pros and cons:

Everyone’s looking to the cloud these days, and those interested in getting a DAM (Digital Asset Management) system are no exception. While there are many cloud-based DAM solutions available, and seemingly more each day, many organizations prefer to have their DAM on-premise. There are pros and cons for each approach, with many valid arguments for both sides.  But which one is right for your business? Choosing what will work best for your organization requires that you take a look at how the DAM will be used and whether short or long-term savings are more important to your organization. Some key elements to consider are the capacity your IT team has to take on a new system, where the users are located, and your total cost of ownership (TCO).” [Read More]

This is one of the better articles I have read about deciding whether a Cloud or an on-premise DAM is the best option for you.  While the latter is entering what might be called the ‘sunset’ period, it will be a very long one, not least of which is the point that Jon raises about performance.  In my opinion, this is still the critical advantage that on-premise DAM has (although the extent to which that is the case might not be the same for everyone).  While many organisations now have relatively fast internet connections, shifting around really big files (e.g. tens of gigabytes worth of video or print artwork) is still painfully slow over most internet connections.  Exactly as Jon says, while this might not be an issue with something like an accounts app, with digital assets it can become far more of a problem and in at least one DAM user I have encountered, use of a Cloud DAM has created silos’ (the in-vogue pejorative keyword du-jour) because the custodians of the assets can’t face the wait associated with uploading and downloading them over internet connections, so they keep the files on a private USB hard drive instead where they can get at the files more easily.

A further point that doesn’t often get mentioned is the data transfer costs.  If you use typical Cloud hosting providers like Amazon, Microsoft etc (and the majority of Cloud DAM vendors are resellers for one of them) these can be surprisingly expensive.  I have no idea what kind of margins they make on these, but comparing Cloud data transfer fees with those applied by independent/private data centres suggests they might be pretty good earners for the infrastructure operators (and at the expense of both the end users and the vendors who are obliged to use them).  If all things Cloud were not currently fashionable in IT circles, you might be inclined to conclude that at least some parts of the services provided were rather slow and expensive in comparison to the alternatives available.  Those are not adjectives you will hear mentioned frequently in-relation to the Cloud, but they are the reality for at least some groups of DAM users.

On the positive side for the cloud, the huge amount saved in IT capital expenditure (most of which will eventually have to get completely written off) can’t be argued with and similarly, the speed with which you can get started effectively without any in-house IT expertise are all substantial benefits.  As alluded to earlier, over the longer-term, the progress of the Cloud seems inexorable and barring global catastrophe (at which point, managing digital assets might be lower on your list of priorities anyway) the number of on-premise DAM installations is likely to diminish significantly and as far as anything can be accurately predicted in technology, Cloud-based solutions seem like a one-way bet.  The interim period, however, will be an extended on, so for that reason you still need to think about this issue very carefully and Jon’s article gives a good summary of the key points to help you with that undertaking.

I have to disclose that Jon did contact me prior to publishing this since it has a few similarities (in terms of perspective, not copy) with my item on DAM News from last month: Where In The World Are Your Digital Assets?  With that said, Jon’s item is a bit more succinct and practical in terms of the decision-making process about the two options, so those readers less interested in engaging in a socio-economic debate about the nature of the Cloud might prefer to read his item in preference to mine.

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